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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Textual Incest: Nathaniel Isaacs and the Development of the Shaka Myth
Author:Wylie, Dan
Periodical:History in Africa
Geographic term:South Africa
Subjects:traditional rulers
historical sources
History and Exploration
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
About person:Shaka king of Zululand (ca. 1787-1828)ISNI
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/3172010
Abstract:South African historiography is less aware than it might be of its textuality. Little attention has been paid to its rhetorical lineaments and heritage or to the ways historians have read, used and departed from one another. This is dramatically illustrated by the case of the historiography of Shaka Zulu (assassinated in 1828). Nowhere else has such a poverty of evidence and research spawned such a massively unquestioned, long-lived, and monolithic 'history'. Only in the last decade has the legendary, verbal construction of the Shaka figure been seriously questioned. Only in 1991 was something approaching an academic consensus reached that the 'mfecane' was no longer a credible vehicle for understanding the early 19th century in southern Africa. This paper describes some recurrent rhetorical gestures evident in colonial literature on Shaka, and follows only one of many strands: the utilization by subsequent writers of Nathaniel Isaacs' eyewitness account, 'Travels and adventures in Eastern Africa' (1836). Its stimulus is the theory of poetic reading (or misreading) propounded by Harold Bloom in 'The anxiety of influence: a theory of poetry' (1973). Notes, ref.